On May 30, Islamic State (ISIS)-affiliated militants in Egypt’s North Sinai province carried out an IED attack on a military convoy in the central part of the province, killing a lieutenant colonel in the Egyptian armed forces. Less than two weeks later, militants tortured and killed a Bedouin elder in the province, tying the 75-year old man to a pole and setting off explosives, the latest in retributive violence against pro-government tribes. These attacks are all the more notable as the U.S. Congress weighs the value of continuing to provide its annual $1.2 billion in foreign military financing to Egypt. While congressional concerns have primarily centered on human rights violations such as the death of American citizen Mustafa Kassem in an Egyptian prison in January, there have been growing frustrations about perceived failures to address a terrorist threat in North Sinai and regarding the United States’ lack of visibility on how its military equipment is being used in the area.
Over the past year, the Islamic State has maintained its activities in Egypt through its “Sinai Province,” or Wilayat Sinai. Even after nearly six years of sustained activity from the Egyptian Armed Forces’ second and third field armies, with help from Israeli forces, Wilayat Sinai remains an active threat. Sustained military operations that took place throughout 2018 as part of the Egyptian Armed Forces’ Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018, which included joint operations with Ministry of Interior forces, were successful in reducing militant capabilities and in neutralizing key leadership figures in the organization. However, almost immediately upon reducing the intensity of operations, Wilayat Sinai resumed a steady rate of attacks throughout 2019 and into this year. The group has claimed 234 attacks in the past 12 months, with nearly 600 civilian and security force casualties, including high-ranking security officials.